Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Hey, here's a find: the inimitable Stephen Fry, reading Shakespeare's Sonnet Number 130--the one that begins "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun," and includes the oddly non-Shakespearean line, "If hair be wires, black wires grow on her head."

I've got a sentimental fondness sfor ol' 130: it was the first sonnet I ever heard aloud (perhaps the first I heard or read)-- read by Albert Liddell, Professor of English at Antioch College in the fall of 1953--maybe "Alfred," my memory is shaky and Wiki is no help. Liddell was the very model of a fubsy old English professor. He wasn't the star of the show at Antioch in those days (I suspect, not ever)--too old-fashioned and unassertive--but he was kind to me and showed me patience when I didn't deserve it.    He gave us the sonnet as our introduction to Shakespeare.  I guess you could say it worked, though in the years since, I've come across others that I think might serve him better.

I found my Fry reading at Open Culture, with a link to a new Ipad app that will deliver the complete of 154 sonnets for $13.99, from a variety of voices, famous and not so.  Apparently the whole lot is available for free grazing on line.  Here's Patrick Stewart, doing a particular favorite of mine (#29, "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes...").   And another favorite: James Shapiro reading #138, "When my love swears that she is made of truth...:"  And--but wait a minute, I'm noticing something here.  That is: I don't like to listen to those guys.  Sure, they are talented, seasoned, Shakesperean--but the more I hear, the more I realize that I'd rather hear them in my own voice: once again, imagination trumps brute reality.  Hell, I'd even like to hear Al Liddell, but I guess he too lives only in imagination.    You know what? One of these days I'm just going to have to do my own, and post them here, and let you judge whether  or not I am Shakespearean class. I think I should pluck my eyebrows first, though.  Meanwhile, here's Patrick Stewart doing something I know I cannot top: the soliloquy "B or not B?"

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